– Matt Haring
The most hyped Bills game in recent memory resulted in an all too familiar story. Not many things went right for the Bills on Sunday against the New England Patriots. In fact, most things went very poorly for the team. The crowd attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the loudest stadium in the league was taken out of the game very quickly, and the Bills were unable to complete their too-little-too-late rally.
- Defense Defeated: The vaunted Bills defense got fully and entirely torched on Sunday. Having success against Tom Brady is an ambiguous term, but Rex Ryan has historically help Brady in check more than other defenses traditionally have. The Patriots threw the ball 59 times and ran it 12 times for over 500 yards of total offense. So, who’s to blame for the defensive breakdowns? It would be fair to blame it on the players, it would be fair to blame it on the coaches, but it would be correct to chalk it up to the fact that the greatest quarterback ever proved his worth, again. There are always plays left on the field by the defense that could have created a better outcome, of course. I don’t think that dismissing the defensive struggles in lieu of playing Tom Brady is over simplistic or irresponsible in the least. The Patriots run such a simple, yet unstoppable offense. Short, quick passes where the ball is in and out of Brady’s hands in less than 2 seconds make it nearly impossible for the Bills pass rush to make an impact. One X’s and O’s change that could have altered the outcome, at least slightly, would be bringing the corners down into press coverage more than they did. Giving receivers an 8-10 yard cushion only furthers the Patriots ability to have a successful short passing game.
- Penalties: With so much attention surrounding the game, it’s easy to understand how players can be emotionally charged up for a game as hyped as this one. However, at some point this emotion has to settle down during a football game, which evidently did not happen. Dumb penalties led to extended drives, field position and points for the Patriots offense while it cost the Bills offense field position and positive plays called back. Having 140 yards of penalties is inexcusable, and makes the tall task of beating the Patriots even larger. Things spiraled out of control quickly for the Bills on Sunday, and eventually the penalties were out of sheer frustration. Through two weeks the Bills have an unacceptable number of personal fouls (9) and left points on the field numerous times.
- Tyrod Taylor and the offensive line: With 8 sacks given up on the afternoon, pointing the finger at the offensive line is the easy thing to do. Cordy Glenn had a very rough time handling Chandler Jones, who had 3 sacks, and there were numerous miscommunications leading to blitzers such as Jamie Collins essentially going untouched up the middle for a sack of Taylor. By and large, however, the offensive line was not as bad as you would initially think. Per PFF, Tyrod Taylor took 3.0 seconds on average to get rid of the football, which led the NFL. So how does this relate to the offensive line? In order to hold the ball for an average of 3 seconds, your line needs to block for 3 seconds. Certainly it is unacceptable for any line to allow 8 sacks, but it would be a fair case to make that Tyrod is equally to blame for the sacks. Tyrod Taylor won the Bills QB job by being decisive with the ball and being able to scramble in times of need. On Sunday Taylor struggled to get the ball out in a timely manner, and was often a little premature to flee the pocket and fine open space. To Taylor’s credit, he appears extremely comfortable finding an open receiver when he leaves the pocket. It’s an encouraging sign that his primary instinct is to look downfield when he scrambles, but the Bills would still rather it didn’t get to that point.
Perspective and Looking Ahead: There is no doubt that Sunday was a demoralizing loss, a huge letdown and will certainly curb some fans enthusiasm. Fans, too, were caught up in the same emotion of the early season matchup and this will naturally lead to overreactions. You could make an argument for many reasons that the Bills lost the game, but at the end of the day Tom Brady was still the quarterback for New England, and he did what Tom Brady does best. Blaming a loss like this on external causes such as trash talk, hype, the Guinness Book of World Records, and penalties are all self-serving biases minimalizing the play on the field, which is what matters. Tom Brady shreds majority of the defenses he plays, even supremely talented ones such as the Bills. The good news is, it’s only one game and the Bills still have loads of talent and potential. The season is in no way defined by Sunday’s loss to New England, and Buffalo will still push for a playoff spot.
Next Sunday the Bills will play in Miami at 4:25 for a tough road opener to their 2015 schedule. The Dolphins haven’t lived up to their expectations thus far, narrowly escaping a loss in Washington 17-10, and losing on a last second field goal in Jacksonville. However, Miami is a talented team that sports a great defense, and a new-and-improved offense. Ryan Tannehill had a nice game in Jacksonville last week and has improved each and every year in the league. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Rishard Matthew, Devante Parker and Greg Jennings alongside TE Jordan Cameron offer a wide range of pass catching options for Miami. Injuries could play a factor in this game as starting LT Braden Albert, QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Lamar Miller all have somewhat minor injuries. Thus far, the Dolphins have struggles to run the ball, which in turn has led them to give up on it. If Miami is going to have their way with the Bills defense, expect it to be through the passing game. A talented defense will present the Bills with their stiffest test to date, especially along the defensive line. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon are all great NFL players that will give the Bills questionable offensive line some issues.